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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Happy Halloween from the SEPCO Team

Posted by SEPCO

10/31/13 9:30 AM

We here at SEPCO wanted to wish you all a Happy and Safe Halloween. Please remember to check your candy, carry a flashlight and stay in groups with friends. For some last minute ideas on how to stay green this Halloween, check out our post Get Spooky and Stay Green and we'll see you back here after all the festivities. 

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Topics: Holiday

Can Your Solar Power System Stand Up to the Test?

Posted by SEPCO

10/29/13 9:30 AM

Solar panels have been produced for years using a lot of the same components. Between silicon, glass and aluminum railing, there really isn’t much else to a solar panel. However, they are quite fragile.

Breaking the glass on the front of the module renders the solar module practically useless. Technology has increased the durability of the glass over the last couple years to allow for destructible forces not to break them. Check out this awesome video where our friends at SolarWorld have perfected their technology in making the glass indestructible.

 

Look how strong these front sides are, but they are damaged easily from the backside.  Most US manufacturers use strong glass, but nobody pays any attention to the backside.  This is usually not a problem for roof mounted equipment or secure solar farms, but when a product for applications such as solar street lights and public power are located on poles within the public realm, the #1 reason for solar module failure is backside damage from windblown debris, rocks, bottles, and slingshots or overall mayhem as shown on those TV commercials.

You see, solar modules of single crystal (mono-crystalline) and even more fragile the thinner cells of poly crystal (multi-crystalline) contain cells which are very thin and as fragile as potato chips! On the module rear the cells are only covered by a thin layer of a vinyl like material. When handling modules, handle with care; even these shown in the above video.  A rack component, module twisting, or anything that comes in contact with the back surface can crack the cell, or tear the vinyl so water can enter the laminate.  A cracked cell can render your expensive module worthless, in a split second!

Protected-vs-Unprotected-So

We provide durable SolarWorld panels combined with our strong aluminum panel pans on the back of the solar panel system to provide protection from all angles. This ensures the safety of your solar panel system whether it is powering a single street light or a whole range of solar lights.

Next time you are in the market for a solar system, make sure your investment will be well protected from outside issues. Ask your solar manufacturer what they do to protect the solar arrays. Don’t be left with a vulnerable system if they don’t do anything to protect your investment. With the cost of solar still high, make sure your system will last.

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Topics: Solar Power

Some LED Math For Commercial Buildings

Posted by SEPCO

10/24/13 9:30 AM

OfficeFor me, the best way to convey the benefits of LED lighting is with numbers. Imagine your favorite department store, which is probably open from early morning to late at night. Or maybe it’s even open 24 hours a day. Now look up. Yes, that’s a lot of lights. 

Commercial spaces—like large department stores—can be energy suckers, with a considerable amount of energy being used to light indoor and outdoor spaces. With some being open nearly all day/every day, energy usage can accumulate quickly. Parking lot lights, ceiling lights, freezer and display lights. You need to see it, they need to illuminate it. 

Using a Cost Per Watt Chart we can do some quick math and get an accurate estimate of the savings that LEDs offer.

Cost-Per-Watt-Chart

A large department store uses 300 250w metal-halide high bay fixtures to light the interior of the store. For only one hour, the store uses 75,000 watts exclusively on these fixtures. By replacing the existing fixtures with 400 24w LED high bays, the store would only use 10,000 watts. If the store has the lights on every day for 14 hours, this is a difference of nearly $50,000 a year in energy costs (at $0.15/watt)—only on these lights!

How do these LED bulbs do it? An LED circuit achieves an incredible 80% efficiency. Which means that 80% of the energy is transferred into light, while only 20% of the energy is lost to heat. By comparison, incandescent bulbs operate at about 20% efficiency, so the savings are considerable.

A miscellaneous benefit of LED lighting for commercial use is that they do not attract insects. Bugs are attracted to ultraviolet light and most LED bulbs do not emit this type of light. I am sure we all have sat outside at night and watched hundreds of bugs fly around a streetlight. What if a business had some late night outdoor dining in the summer, without LED lighting there would be bugs buzzing around everyone’s food. But enter LED lighting, no bugs and a great outdoor meal in the summer night.

                *This lack of UV rays also keeps meat fresher and does less harm to paintings on the wall.

With decreasing prices and incentives from energy companies, LED lighting has become the ideal energy-efficient solution for commercial lighting. Unlike outdated lighting technology, LEDs use a higher percentage of electricity for generating light instead of waste heat. And unlike CFLS, they don’t contain mercury or toxic substances. Most LEDs can last over 60,000 hours, and the newest LED modules have a life of over 90,000 hours. To put it simply, LEDs last a lot longer while using only a fraction of watts that other types of lighting use. And the cherry on top? They have superior lighting quality and result in a huge return on investment.

If you want to see an instant drop in your company’s electricity bill, do some quick math and figure out home much it will cost you to make the transition to LED lights. Then figure out how many months your payback period will take. Probably after six months to a year you will be experiencing some serious return on investment.  For environmentally-friendly companies, and those interested in reducing costs, investing in energy-efficient LED lighting has become the obvious answer.

Dr_Edison_BulbDr. Edison Bulb has worked in the lighting industry for over 30 years. His areas of expertise include commercial and sports lighting. He was an early adopter of LED lighting technology and has been an advocate for the transition to green energy solutions. Dr. Bulb has worked hard to become empolyed as a blogger on the topics of LED questions and exciting LED applications at Access Fixtures. He finds balance in his life by researching sear engine optimization and being an avid fan of the NBA and professional tennis.

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Topics: Guest Post, LED Lighting

Need Power? Use a Remote Solar Power System

Posted by SEPCO

10/22/13 9:30 AM

Remote-Power-1While the rest of society is crowding the national energy grid and competing for increasingly costly resources, an enlightened few have taken it upon themselves to seek out a better alternative. But honestly, all they really had to do was look up! Remote solar power has a huge number of advantages over traditional sources of energy production, allowing cities, schools, and private companies to create their own source, in a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly manner.

Highly reliable, with a long operation life, low maintenance, a silent and clean operation process, and on-call demand, remote solar power creates a value that is immediately apparent. The benefits of such systems are profound and wide-ranging, offering both monetary and intrinsic rewards to those who implement the technology. With remote solar power having applicable uses in civil, industrial, and private infrastructure, it is now a viable option for all sectors of life. Large (and small) stakeholders can implement these systems for:

  • Electricity generation - lighting streets, parking lots, billboards, and parks, along with powering equipment, wireless sensors, fans, refrigerators, computers, security systems, and portable tools.
  • Standalone, autonomous energy - powering equipment in rural or remote areas without reliable grid access.
  • Revenue generation - producing electricity and selling the output. 

Additionally, as the price of solar power continues to fall and efficiency gradually rises, the obvious financial incentives are becoming more attractive. The strong economics of remote solar power are buoyed further by generous state and federal tax breaks, which are readily handed out to those resourceful enough to get on board.

But even with all the great monetary benefits, the peace of mind you receive when using such technology is part of what makes solar so unique. Not only are you reducing our energy reliance on fossil fuels, you are also freeing up space in the already overworked and inefficient energy grids of America by becoming an autonomous energy producer.

Fortunately, many forward thinking cities and organizations have already recognized the positive factors of such systems, along with acknowledging larger considerations, like the fact that solar power aids in economic development, the creation of high tech jobs, increased fuel diversity, national energy independence, and reduced market price volatility.

Remote solar power is an area of energy creation that is quickly gaining traction and will only become more important in society going forward. So get in on the ground floor and reap the countless benefits for years to come.
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Topics: Solar Power

Why Should You Buy a Solar Lighting or Power System?

Posted by SEPCO

10/17/13 9:30 AM

Solar-Lighting-and-PowerThere is no better way to become eco-friendly than to invest in either solar lighting or a solar power system, but the benefits for going solar are much deeper than any environmentally responsible feelings you may have.

The first benefit is cost effectiveness. Once installed, solar implementation costs nothing to run. All of its energy is drawn from the sun and that means free energy for your commercial application. And if you are worried about the initial cost of installation, there are several tax credits and grants available from the government, that can be used to substantially lessen the initial cost.  

Since solar energy has no moving parts, maintenance to keep any solar lighting or powered device is greatly reduced. All solar panels are self contained and need no upkeep to keep them functioning at peak efficiency. The new LED fixtures last virtually forever, so they rarely or never need to be changed, and even battery technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, so that battery replacement is measured in years. All of these factors combined, result in far less maintenance than a conventional power and lighting system, and that adds up to less cost for you. 

But the biggest factor is safety. Since solar power and lighting are all self contained, there are no wires that will become dangerous if exposed. Parking lights or street lights that are damaged or run over will never have live, and potentially deadly, electrical wires exposed. Building lights will keep areas illuminated even in power outages, and if you invest in a solar power system, security lighting and perimeter cameras will always be functional. Even such things as electrically solar powered gates will  open for any emergency situation. 

Modern solar lighting or power systems are cutting edge technology that is cost effective to install, and is cost effective to use. They provide a safety margin that is second to none over any other type of electrical powered equipment, even those that are powered by portable generators. 

For any commercial application, solar energy is the way to go now and for the future, that can be installed or retrofitted economically with government incentives. It will make your business, municipality or township eco-friendly, it will allow you to conform to the latest governmental regulations, it will lower you energy bills and it will always be a safer alternative to a grid wired electrical system.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power

Turtle Friendly Decorative LED Solar Street Lights for Bradenton Beach

Posted by SEPCO

10/15/13 10:29 AM

Bradenton-Beach-4Back in 2009, the City of Bradenton Beach decided to utilize renewable energy to lower their city’s electric bill and become more environmentally friendly. As they are a coastal city, there were certain aspects, such as being turtle friendly that needed to be taken into consideration. They also wanted to stay with the architectural nature of their area. With the partnership of Beacon Products, we were able to meet all their requirements and deliver turtle friendly decorative LED solar street lights.

The installation was completed in January 2010. The decorative LED solar lighting systems replaced 100 Watt high pressure sodium lamps with 17 Watt LED fixtures. The fixtures are decorative Urban style fixtures and provide turtle friendly lighting from dusk to dawn, every night, year round. The solar power assembly, mounting bracket, battery box, fixture and pole were all powder coated white to match the surrounding architecture.

Bradenton-Beach-3The solar provides the energy during the day and is stored in the battery assembly. The lights turn on at night and back off at dawn. The fixtures uses site specific optics, full cutoff luminaires and provide amber light that is undetectable to sea turtles. This ensures turtle safety during their breeding periods when they come to shore to lay their eggs as well as when the eggs hatch and the baby sea turtles use stars and the moon to navigate to the ocean.

The lights in Bradenton Beach are a beautiful example of how solar and decorative fixtures work well together to provide the needed lighting for the area while not compromising the architectural looks of an area. These lights will keep looking beautiful year after year while protecting the natural ecosystem of nearby nesting turtles. Definitely a project that is a blast from the past!

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Street Lighting, Decorative Lighting

Do Panels Have to Reside on the Roof?

Posted by SEPCO

10/10/13 9:30 AM

Solar Panels in FieldAdding solar power to your residence usually entails mounting panels on top of your roof in order to maximize the exposure to sunlight. Although this is an out-of-the-way locale, does it have to be a rooftop addition? Not necessarily. Mounting panels on the roof is more for your own convenience while providing as much power as possible. If they don't have to be on the roof, then why are they?

1. Maximizing Space - On any given property, you want to maximize as much space as possible in order to get the most out of your home. Mounting panels to your roof is a way of maximizing that space. Since you're not realistically going to use your rooftop for anything other than protection from the elements, it's a logical place to install solar panels. While you can install panels at ground level in an open field, those panels will interfere with any future plans you have for that specific allotment of space.

2. Clear of Obstructions - What gives the solar panel its power is the intense light from the sun. If something where to provide shade coverage on the panel itself, the power it produces would be greatly decreased. By mounting panels on rooftops, they have less of a chance to be covered by shadows from a variety of objects. Although tall nearby trees can still pose a problem in order to generate power, the rooftop can nearly remove the human element all-together. If you have an open field that has no objects nearby to cast a shadow on the panels, they will produce the same power as if they were on the roof.

3. Easier Installation? - Could it be easier to install a panel on the roof that it would be in an open field? That depends on the stage of the installation. While it may be more dangerous to shimmy around on a roof as opposed to a ground level array, tying the power into the home's infrastructure could be considerably more hectic. If the panels are on the roof, a line can be simply dropped from the array to the circuit breaker and/or power inverter. If the installation was in a nearby field, conduits would have to be installed from the solar panels to the home before tying into the circuits. This conduit could be exceptionally long if your panels had to be installed in a distant location from the house in order to maximize solar collection.

4. Damage Reduction - Although storms can wreak havoc on a roof, more damage can be caused to the home at ground levels. Installing the panels at ground level subject them to the human element. Any number of things could happen to them caused by accidents. Storms could blow debris into the array, floods could damage the brackets and panels themselves, equipment such as lawnmowers and/or farming equipment could take them out and the mayhem of children are all factors to consider for ground-based developments.

Although you can install solar panels at ground level, it may not be practical according to your personal situation or surroundings. As they are expensive to replace, it may be better to side with the suggestions of the installer when he or she is determining the placement of your array.

Author Bio: This article is contributed by Madoline Hatter. Madoline is a freelance writer and blog junkie from ChangeOfAddressForm.com. You can reach her at: m.hatter12 @ gmail. com.

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How LED Lights Proved to be Energy Efficient

Posted by SEPCO

10/8/13 9:30 AM

LED-LampWhen it comes to decorating a new house, most of us think about adorning it with colorful bulbs and lights. In the process of beautifying our home, we generally forget about our environment and cost of electricity. Despite of the repeated TV commercials underlining the benefits of LED lights, most of us still opt for traditional decorative bulbs.

If you judge incandescent bulbs with LEDs on the basis of price, then traditional bulbs become a clear choice. But if you think of future savings and profits, nothing but LEDs are a right choice to make. Let us see why.

Why are LED Lights Better?

LED lights are rapidly transforming lighting technology. LED bulbs are more durable, reduce environmental damage, slash costs and offer exceptional quality lighting as compared to traditional or incandescent bulbs. So it is best to replace those superannuated 60-watt incandescent bulbs in your house with the energy efficient alternative of LEDs.

Due to advancement in technology, LED bulbs began illuminating larger areas, which was previously restricted to laboratory and smaller electronic devices. There are various uses of LED lights which are beneficial for individuals, business owners and the environment. Listed below are a few advantages.

Energy Efficiency of LED Lights

LED lights virtually produce no heat (limited to 80%) in the illuminating process, therefore they are relatively cool. Approximately 20% electric energy gets transformed to light energy in these bulbs.

While in traditional bulbs, about 80% electric energy is lost as heat energy resulting on only 20% efficiency, that is, conversion to light energy. This is exactly the reason why traditional bulbs blow out soon and LEDs have a better longevity.

  • LED lights encourage lower energy usage and guarantee higher safety due to production of less heat.
  • LED lights can reduce your electricity bills and carbon emissions.
  • LED lighting solutions are quite affordable due to lower maintenance cost and longer lifespan. 
  • LED bulbs are both energy efficient and environmental friendly.

It is due to its lower energy consumption, LEDs are becoming more popular in remote areas. Despite these advantages, many people still buy traditional bulbs. The major reason why people are still choosing incandescent bulbs over LEDs is the price. Although LEDs are an expensive investment, the cost is quickly reimbursed over time in lower electricity bills. It is worth your investment for long term benefits.

Other Benefits

Energy efficiency and cost savings are not the only benefits of LED lights, there are many others.

  • LEDs also have a longer lifespan of about 60,000 hours as compared to incandescent bulbs that last only up to 1,500 hours.
  • Environment-friendly and multiple usage are some of the other notable merits of LED lights.

If every household across the globe  replaces just one traditional bulb with an energy efficient LEDs, the world would save twice on their annual electricity cost and energy. Replacing your incandescent bulbs with LED lights may make a lot of monetary gains in the long run.

Author Bio: Derek Langley is a guest blogger interested in writing energy saving related article. He mostly prefers to write LED and other energy saving electronic products.

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Topics: Guest Post, LED Lighting

What Options are Available for Outdoor Solar Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

10/3/13 9:30 AM

Jack-McLean-Park-2In the world of grid connected commercial lighting, there are high installation costs, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance bills, high energy expenses and safety issues. But it doesn't have to be that way. 


Modern outdoor solar lighting has about 1/10th the installation price, there is limited maintenance,  zero energy bills and safety issues are greatly reduced. And, solar lighting is available for a variety of your needs, from parking lots, street lights, area lighting and even such specialized applications like bus and transit stops or industrial applications. 

Take, for example, parking lot lights. With grid supplied lights you'll need to have them professionally installed into your electrical service. Depending on your lot size and whether or not they are a new installation, this may well cost  tens of thousands of dollars. But with solar parking lot lights, you don't tie into the grid. Just put up the pole, orient the solar panel to receive sunlight and you are done. Plus, there is no safer alternative than solar powered parking lot lights. If someone runs into a light pole, there will never be any highly charged and dangerous live wires laying about. And, since it will take years before a battery needs to be replaced, and LED bulbs last virtually forever, having someone go up to "fix" a bad light greatly cuts down on safety concerns. 

Street lighting works the same way. Once they are in place there are no associated electrical costs, there will never be any exposed wires if the pole has been run into, and maintenance becomes a non-issue. 

Local-Transit-4The best outdoor solar lighting applications for commercial area lighting comes with batteries that will hold a charge for 5 full nights. That keeps your area lit up at all times, especially during power outages when there are safety concerns, even if the weather has been cloudy,

Bus and transit stops will always have light with no worry about a bulb burning out, and for industrial applications that require fossil fuel for generators, portable outdoor solar lighting is the answer to reduce costs and bring light to the most remote places where it is needed. 

No matter what your lighting needs are in a commercial setting, there is an outdoor solar lighting option available for you that will save you money, reduce or eliminate maintenance costs and help you go "green" to take advantage of government incentives while becoming eco-conscious. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Bus Stop Lighting

Stand Alone Solar Lighting Systems for St. Augustine Beach Pier Park

Posted by SEPCO

10/1/13 8:44 AM

St-Augustine-1St. Johns County was looking to complete improvements into the parking areas at the beach parking and wanted to integrate a renewable aspect. The project was designed to integrate standard AC utility electrial lights while also integrating stand-alone solar lighting systems

The lighting design and engineering firm working on this project needed to be able to have the entire light poles and fixtures match and be both aesthetically pleasing and high performing. We were able to assist with this request by using our partnership with Kim Lighting which allowed us to work together in order to offer our solar power systems to integrate the decorative Curvilinear high Performance LED light fixture into both the solar lighting and utility power design.

The production of the fixture in both AC input and DC input take a lot of background engineering. What is different about AC utility power lights and DC solar stand-alone lights is that the solar system is only as reliable as its design. If the fixture draws 1 watt more it could drain the battery and make the system unreliable and require early battery replacement. This 1 watt will operate for about 14 hours in the winter drawing 14 more watts out of the battery and draining the battery closer to the total depth of discharge.

The solar battery has a life expectancy which is based on the cycling capacity. The more the battery cycles through to its DOD - depth of discharge, the sooner the battery will need to be replaced. With LED lights and electronics lasting much longer, the batteries are the weakest components in the system and need to be properly designed in order to have them have long life cycle.

The project was a success and looks beautifully designed. Direct burial round concrete white poles with solar on the top and the curvilinear fixtures below match in with the pier and parking areas and met the needs that St. Johns County was hoping for.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting

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